SHEEP bred in Swaledale were moved to Cumbria after it was discovered they were the only remaining direct bloodline of a flock culled during the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The 29 pure-bred Herdwick ewes were granted special licences to allow them to travel from Marrick, near Richmond, to Cockermouth on Saturday.

The small flock had been bred by Mrs Jane Law and her husband, Ian, at Marrick, using tups lent by Mr David Norman, who farms near Cockermouth.

When Mr Norman's entire flock was culled in March, it was realised that the only direct bloodlines remaining were the Swaledale animals.

Mr Law, a teacher, and Mrs Law, a dentist, found pressure of work meant they did not have enough time to devote to the sheep, so the transfer was arranged to allow Mr Norman to rebuild his enterprise.

"The transfer was made possible by the loan of transport by D and E Frankland, of Marrick," said Mr Law. "The handover of the sheep was done under strict Defra control, with a vet making sure that the vehicle used did not enter the farm and was not touched by farm staff."

The Laws had had Herdwick sheep for about eight years after Mr Law bought his wife the first animals as a birthday present. She bred the current flock, using Mr Norman's tups, six years ago, after Mr Law met Mr Norman on the show field at Keswick.

"We went to the show because we were looking to buy a tup, but he offered to lend one to me," said Mr Law. "When we took our sheep over there on Saturday it was a bit like coals to Newcastle."

The couple bought the 15-acre holding at Marrick in 1974 and moved there to live in 1978. They produced sheep and cattle commercially and chose Herdwicks because of their good quality meat.

"I'm told that, when the Queen is offered lamb, she prefers Herdwick," said Mr Law, who was born in Hertfordshire but grew up in Arkengarthdale from the age of ten. His wife was brought up at Northallerton